Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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CALHOUN, John Caldwell, was born in Abbeville district, S. C., March 18, 1782, and died in Washington city, March 31, 1850. He was graduated at Yale in 1804, was admitted to the bar in 1807, and served as representative in congress 1811-17 (see BANK CONTROVERSIES, III.), when he became secretary of war. He was vice-president from 1825 until 1831, when he resigned (see NULLIFICATION) to become senator from South Carolina. He was secretary of state 1843-5 (see ANNEXATIONS, III.), when he again became senator, dying in office. He was the particularist of particularists, the leader of that element of the democratic party which made no allowance for the country's development or growing necessities, but insisted on construing the constitution according to the needs of 1777-89. He held that the states were sovereign, (see STATE SOVEREIGNTY); that the constitution was merely a compact or treaty between separate, sovereign nations, to be construed entirely by the rules of international law; that such a treaty, when broken by one state, was no longer binding upon any; and that, consequently, the declaration of a state that the constitution had been violated, absolved the people of that state from any further allegiance or obedience to the United States until the wrong had been made good. (See ALLEGIANCE, SECESSION.) It must be remembered that, to Calhoun's mind, this theory did not militate against the existence of the Union; it only operated as a check upon the tyranny of a national majority. He was a master of logic; let his premises, that the states were originally sovereign, and that they separately, not unitedly, revolted from Great Britain (see DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE), be granted, and it would be difficult to make any head against his arguments. He was always in advance of the other politicians of his section, and the south only came up, in 1860, abreast with the doctrine which he had taught in 1850. He died in the unhappy belief that the south had been entrapped, under the supposition that she was merely forming an alliance with a more powerful neighbor, into a corporate union in which she was to be helpless under her neighbor's superiority in number of voters and other advantages. (See DEMOCRATIC PARTY, III., IV.; BANK CONTROVERSIES, III.; NULLIFICATION; ANNEXATIONS, III.; COMPROMISES, V.; SLAVERY; STATE SOVEREIGNTY; TERRITORIES; SECESSION; ADMINISTRATIONS, VIII., IX., XIV.—See Jenkins' Life of Calhoun; Parton's Famous Americans; Crallé's Works of Calhoun; A. H. Stephens' War Between the States; Appleton's American Cyclopœdia, art. "Calhoun"; Thomas' Carolina Tribute to Calhoun; 24 National Quarterly Review.


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